Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day 35: Irun to San Sebastián (24 kms)

Albergue in Irun

Just to clarify things, the day number in the heading marks the total days walked to date, not including lay days. We left St. Jean the day after we arrived and took a bus to Bayonne, and then changed to a train to Hendaye, and then onto a kind of metro train to Irun. The metro type train leaves from a station immediately outside (and to the right) of the Hendaye station. We stopped by the tourist office to find the municipal albergue, and the walked right to it. It is only a 10 minute walk from the Irun station. Just to clarify, there are three stations tha have Irun in their names. People walking the Norte want to get off at the second stop from Hendaye (if you want the shortest route to the municipal albergue), I believe some charts had it marked as Irun, but the station sign said, Irun Colon. Not to worry, it is the second stop from Hendaye.

We arrived just behind a couple of Irish guys, and the some French ladies arrived followed by some Germans. I don't believe the full 30 bed capacity was reached last night. However, the hospitalero, who has a room on site, explained that his albergue has been frequently full. In any event the whole lot of us got our credentials, beds and were told that the doors would be locked at 10 pm. No worries on that. Robin andI made our bunks and the headed off to a market to see what we could find to eat. We wound up with lasagne, zucchini, and some croquette type snacks that were not clearly identified. It all went down along with a bottle of wine that we shared with the French ladies.

We were roused around 6:00 by the commotion of pilgrims anxious to get moving. Actually the albergue wants everyone out by 8:00 if I understood that correctly. In any event, I am sure the place was empty by then. We set off expecting rain, and a couple of kilometers later a shower passed through. We knew we would be doing a lot of climbing so wearing a rain jacket was not in the cards. We stashed them in our outside mesh pockets just before starting up to the Guadalupe Hermitage. That climb went well, and our legs felt pretty strong. We opted to take the lower path (not the Alpinista path) to Pasaia. We just didn't feel like doing it. The views are much better, but I spent a lifetime stating out at the sea. The lower path which is marked by yellow arrows, started out pretty flat and wide. As you get further into it, perhaps 3 hours, you start climbing, and that just seemed to go on and on. Eventually, with tired legs we descended into Pasaia to get the launch that takes you across the harbor (1.7 euros per person). But , first we stopped for lunch and a rest. We are in good shape after coming down the Chemin but this morning's walk was hard. It took about 4 hours to get from the albergue to Pasai. So that was the morning bit. After lunch we enjoyed about a very brief ride across the harbor, and picked up the yellow arrows leading us back towards the harbor entrance. As we neared the end of the jetty we could see pilgrims, with their backpacks, all pointing upwards. When our turn came we could see what the fuss was about. A steep switched back stone staircase was being mounted, very slowly mind you, by all sorts who fancied a view from the top. The pilgrim contingent just had to get up the hill to carry on. So that broke a sweat, that hardly went away for the rest of the day's walk. I mistakenly thought that once on top we would, more or less, enjoy a sort of level walk around the coastal hills until we reached San Sebastián. Well that didn't play out. It was level for a very short bit, the path might even have dipped for a bit, but climbing returned with an annoying persistence that kept our breath short most if the way in. It wasn't that the grade was that steep, but it was just there, and there, and there. When do we get to go down was the afternoon's plaintiff cry. Long story short, we arrived very tired, and somewhat surprised that this first day on the Norte had been so challenging. But, we are stopping over for two days, in San Sebastián, to catch our breath, so all will be well come Monday.

On the plus side, the first day offered a lot of wonderful vistas, more from the Alpinista route obviously. The lower route was enclosed by trees for much of its length, so opportunities to see out were few, and were inland. Perhaps it was this enclosed feeling that made the lower route just feel longer. Who knows. When you are tired lots of fanciful things come to mind. Robin and I will find our Camino rhythm, over the next few days, and just carry on. We are tired tonight, but still are thankful we are here. I am looking out at the harbor (from my hotel bed) as I finish a glass of wine, realizing what a beautiful place this is. I am now sleeping.....

Leaving Irun
Find the yellow arrows
A hill to climb
Same hill
Way marks along the way
Santuario de Guadalupe
The two routes
The lower path east end
Harbor entrance at Pasaia
Going down to the ferry
The ferry
How did that wire get there
On the path to San Sebastián
The path west end
Arrival San Sebastián
From our hotel room, shortly before lapsing into a coma



  1. Have been looking forward to the 'continuation'. Have heard the Norte has lots of steep ups and downs. All the best, and enjoy your rest day!

    1. Hi Margaret, yes the Norte has ups and downs plenty. So far we are staying up to the challenge. Thanks for staying with us.


  2. Really looking forward to following you on the del Norte. In '11 we walked from Moissac to Pamplona, took a bus to San Sebastián for 3 days, bussed back to Pamplona and walked on to Estella where we were Hospitaleros for 17 days. San Sebastián was fabulous; wonderful beach, fabulous food (pintxos) and great 'old town'. I'd go back in a heartbeat. Enjoy and rest. Thanks again for your great posts. Karen and Dayton

    1. Hi Karen and Dayton, we had a great time in San Sebastián, and are now coming to grips with the rest of the route. So far so good. Always good to hear from you.


  3. I'm so appreciating following your journey. I love seeing the water and the contrast of villages, towns and nature. Thanks for clarifying landmarks that may help others find their way. Buen Camino.

    1. Hi Kathy, I finally have time to post some replies. This has been a remarkable journey (not necessarily an easy one, but which ones are). Thanks for walking along with us. We will have much to discuss once we get home. Robin and I shall look forward to catching up with you.

      Cheers for now,